It all started early on; his love of spirits. What fascinated him were the multitudes of products out there; all tasting different with beautiful bottles and labels. It was as much about the art of the packaging as the taste. After years of experimentation with different wines and alcohols he was given the opportunity to join a distillery already established on San Francisco’s Treasure Island. Treasure Island Distillery started in the old Navy Brig and was without a still. Carter having built dozens of stills, large and small, was already gathering the necessary materials for building a production still in hopes of starting his own distillery. When this opportunity presented itself it was a match made in heaven.
He continued to fabricate the stills from scratch; machining every single part from a raw bar of metal. He built the main production still and the ¼ scale lab version for making test batches. Most of the complimentary equipment for the distillery was also fabricated from scratch. Equally out of saving money, but also to get exactly what’s necessary for the job at hand.
The first product for release was Absinthe a spirit banned for most of the 20th century; finally being legalized in 2007. Carter first started researching Absinthe in 1985 after hearing about it in a movie. After years of experimentation he finally came up with what is undeniably the best absinthe on the market. Absinthe is an herbal spirit made with Grand Wormwood, Anise Seed and Fennel Seed. It is then colored naturally with Roman Wormwood, Hyssop and Lemon Balm. Grand Wormwood is a very bitter herb and has been used for ages in herbal medicine. In absinthe it adds a nice woody subtle bitter taste. The main flavor of absinthe is Anise which has a licorice flavor. Even though no sugar is in Emperor Norton Absinthe it has a slight sweet taste. The traditional preparation method of Absinthe is not the only way to go and mixes quite well with lots of other spirits.
Raff Distillerie’s other product out on the market now is Bummer and Lazarus Gin. A very flavorful gin with hints of citrus.
The still more specifically is a hybrid design by me, Carter Raff. It can be used for many different types of alcohol. Normally if one were to make vodka you would use a column still also referred to as a fractioning still. These stills use plates or packing to create more surface area for the alcohol/water molecule to cling to thereby allowing it to continually distill the same liquid over and over achieving a more refined, clean, product. If you wanted to make anything else that retained its flavor you would use a pot still or alembic; which is essentially a pot still. The still that I built is a hybrid that allows it to be used as either a fractioning column or a pot still. If you wanted some separation you would be able to use 1 to 3 plates or apply what’s known as Vapor Management to apply lots of separation. Most of the time we are using it to create flavored spirits such as gin, absinthe and whiskey so we use it as a plain pot still.
All stills need to have copper in them to help pull the sulphur out of the vapor. The outside of my still is stainless steel as it’s easier and cheaper to work with than copper, but there is quite a bit of copper inside.